CAT | Ohio State and SELA
On Monday, April 16, I was proud to be involved in a panel discussion at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law on the subject of “Homophobia in sports and developments in policies at the institutional level.”
The two panelists were phenomenal: Professor Erin Buzuvis, from the Western New England University School of Law (and co-founder of the Title IX Blog), and Brian Kitts, a co-founder of You Can Play.
The event was well attended by law students, faculty, and alumni.
For those that were unable to attend, the event was recorded and the video is now available online. I parsed the video into segments based on the topic of discussion for your convenience.
You can view the entire event (just over an hour) with one simple click by viewing this YouTube playlist or you can watch individual segments based on the subject you’re interested in by viewing the embedded videos below.
On Monday, April 16, the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law will be hosting a panel discussion on “Homophobia in Sports and Developments in Policies at the Institutional Level.”
The event will be from 12:10 p.m. to 1:15 p.m., and the event is free, open to the public, and lunch will be served. The law school is located in Drinko Hall at 55 West 12th Avenue. (Facebook event with all the details here; RSVPs are appreciated for planning purposes.)
I am very pleased that this event is coming together, and the two speakers that will be on the panel are great: Professor Erin Buzuvis, a Title IX guru, and Brian Kitts, a co-founder of You Can Play. (Their complete bios are below.) Oh, and yours truly will be moderating the discussion.
I also had a wonderful meeting with Sr. Associate Athletics Director, Miechelle Willis, yesterday about the event. Ms. Willis focuses on student-athlete wellness and was very receptive to the slated message for the event. So receptive, in fact, that she agreed to send out an invitation of the event to all the student-athletes and coaches at Ohio State! I have no idea if any will accept the invitation and attend, but the possibility excites me!
While the exact questions and topics for discussion have not been finalized, this is the preliminary list of ideas I have come up:
- NCAA’s new policy for transgender athletes: what are the rules, how did it come into effect, etc.
- Does Title IX apply to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity in college athletics?
- Culture of masculinity in men’s sports and resulting sexist/homophobic conduct (Iowa’s pink visitor locker room, Ohio State ‘lavender jersey’)
- Perceptions and stereotypes of sexuality of men versus women athletes
- Impact and importance of allies in sports
- Negative recruiting in women’s sports: what is it, how prevalent is it, and how does it affect players?
- Implications of NFL, MLB, and NBA adding ‘sexual orientation’ to class of people protected from discrimination in collective bargaining agreements
- State of homophobia and growing numbers of allies in professional sports
I hope to see you there on Monday!
Oh, you may not be in Columbus or have a prior commitment? Don’t worry, we have arranged to have the event recorded and I will be uploading it here as soon as I can. (I plan to splice the video into parts for each question asked, hoping it will be more user-friendly.)
Here are complete bios for the speakers:
Brian Kitts is co-founder of the You Can Play Project, an international effort to promote respect for LGBT athletes in sports. Brian spent more than 10 years in the front offices of professional sports teams in the NHL, NBA, MLS and the NLL. He is the marketing and communications director for the mayor’s office of Arts & Venues in Denver, and teaches sports and entertainment marketing at the University of Denver.
Professor Erin Buzuvis researches and writes about gender and discrimination in sport, including such topics as the interrelation of law and sports culture, intersecting sexual orientation and race discrimination in women’s athletics, retaliation against coaches in collegiate women’s sports, the role of interest surveys in Title IX compliance, participation policies for transgender and intersex athletes, and Title IX and competitive cheer. Additionally, she is a co-founder and contributor to the Title IX Blog, an interdisciplinary resource for news, legal developments, commentary, and scholarship about Title IX’s application to athletics and education. In addition to a seminar about sports, law and culture, she also teaches administrative law, employment discrimination, and property. Prior to joining the faculty in 2006, she clerked for Judge Thomas Ambro of the Third Circuit and practiced law at Goodwin Procter in Boston. She also spent time as a Visiting Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law.
There are two events happening in Columbus, Ohio, this Friday, March 30, that offer a slate of both educational and entertainment activities.
Columbus Blue Jackets “Pride Night”
The latter of the day, which I’ll start with first since there is less to be said, is the Columbus Blue Jackets “Pride Night” game against the Florida Panthers. The game starts at 7:05 p.m. with a pre-game happy hour at 5:30 p.m. in the Founders Club of Nationwide Arena.
If you are interested, Contact Erica Ganyard at (614) 246-7675 to order tickets or with questions. Tickets are available at four prices: $34, $50, $62, or $85.
A portion of the ticket sales benefit ARC Ohio, Bravo, Equality Ohio, Kaleidoscope Youth Center, and TransOhio. Being that I go to ARC Ohio for HIV testing; consider Ed Mullen, executive director of Equality Ohio, a friend; volunteered for a year at KYC; and know that Bravo and TransOhio do tremendous work; that these great organization will be beneficiaries in some capacity is reason to attend. For a portion of your ticket price to go these organizations, you need to purchase your tickets from Ms. Ganyard.
I am slightly disappointed with the slate of the programming this year, however. Compared with last year, which had the entire group sitting together in the sky terrace (a more private and intimate setting which was great for those that may not feel the most comfortable holding their partner’s hand, etc. while sitting in the normal seating areas) and had a post-game game between two gay hockey teams, Ohio Mayhem and Chicago Black Wolves), the agenda leaves me wanting more. Basically, there is a pre-game happy hour (cool), but the tickets are scattered all over (boo) and there is no other programming advertised (double boo). (For an example of how it should be done, check out the programming for the Washington Nationals game last season.)
I’m hoping that since Blue Jacket Rick Nash recently joined the You Can Play campaign, that there is a chance the PSA will air during the game. But I’m not counting on it.
“Humanistic Foundations: Historical, Philosophical and Sociocultural Studies of Sport”
The Ohio State University, joined by Pennsylvania State University and University of Western Ontario, is hosting an all-day conference for the cross-disciplinary study of sport at the Ohio Union, Barbie Tootle Room, 1739 N. High Street.
The event lasts all day and includes a number of topics that look to be interesting, including cross-studies of race, sexuality, gender, and more.
I am particularly interested in those in Session I, “Mediated Differences: Representations of Gender and Sexuality.” This session includes topics such as:
- 8:00-8:20 “Identifying Typologies: Women Bloggers and the Concept of ‘Sports’”
- 9:00-9:20 “‘What Kind of Respectable, Straight Male’: Paulie Malignaggi, Homophobia and Professional Boxing”
Session II also includes: “Controlling Sex in Sport: The Initial Days of Sex Testing by the IOC” from 9:50-10:10.
Other topics for the day will cover sociological implications in physical education, globalization of the NBA affecting the player’s union, ethical dimensions with parents coaching youth sports, and more. You can view a complete schedule of all the topics here. (There is also a welcome gathering on Thursday evening and a closing reception on Friday evening.)
Materials prepared for the event also include abstracts for the topics, so you can get a glimpse of the content before attending.
The abstract for the discussion on homophobia in sport is on page 15, and pasted below:
“What Kind of Respectable, Straight Male”: Paulie Malignaggi, Homophobia and Professional Boxing
MacIntosh Ross, University of Western Ontario; Daniel Taradash, University of Iowa
In the twenty-first century, internet forums, article responses and blogs have made the World Wide Web an unprecedented repository for often overlooked opinions of sports fans. Since many of these opinions are uncensored, readers are often presented with harsh, stereotyped views regarding class, race and gender. This paper will focus on perceptions of gender in online boxing fan forums, using R.W. Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity to explain homophobic reactions to American boxer Paulie Malignaggi on various boxing websites.
In 2007, Paulie Malignaggi won the International Boxing Federation world light welterweight championship by defeating title-holder Lovemore N’dou. Malignaggi defended his title twice before vacating the championship to fight Ricky Hatton in 2008. Unlike other champions, Malignaggi’s sexuality was routinely discussed and/or attacked online. Although his skills elevated him to the rank of champion, Malignaggi’s appearance – bright colored ring attire and thoroughly groomed look – did not align with hegemonic notions of masculinity. Furthermore, Malignaggi’s reliance on speed and technique, rather than power, was routinely pointed out, criticized and linked to his lack of ‘manliness.’
Within hegemony, a dominant cultural form does not extinguish all competitors. As Connell argues, other forms of masculinity continue to occur throughout society, constituting alternative, albeit subordinate, ways of being a man. We will argue that Malignaggi represents a subordinate masculinity, outside the boundaries of the dominant, hegemonic masculine culture exalted in boxing and other sports. Since hegemonic masculinity is heterosexual, many boxing fans framed Mailgnaggi as homosexual when discussing the fighter online. Fans typically approached Malignaggi’s sexuality in one of two ways. First of all, fans create posts asking for verification of Malignaggi’s sexuality. Secondly, some fans attack Malignaggi’s ability as a boxer by labeling him with homophobic pejoratives, suggesting that a homosexual man cannot box successfully. Ultimately, both types of forum entry reinforce existing notions of masculinity, marginalizing not only Malignaggi, but boxers who actually are homosexual.
If you attend either event, look for me and say hello! I’ll try to take notes to document the various panels I attend and of course I will be reporting on anything notable that happens at the Blue Jackets game.
Just over a week ago, the Columbus Dispatch ran a story highlighting (celebrating?) Ohio State football’s new approach to conditioning and training motivation in the Urban Meyer regime: avoid the lavender jersey.
The Dispatch’s Tim May describes Ohio State’s new director of performance, Mickey Marrioti, as “a colorful motivator,” and that “In a scarlet and gray world, a lavender shirt sticks out.”
How it works: you loaf on the field and Mariotti makes you wear a lavender shirt—something the Dispatch describes as “a stain that takes at least a week of renewed gusto to erase.”
Senior linebacker Etienne Sabino acknowledges the purpose of the program, “You don’t want to wear those.”
So what’s wrong with it?
First, and the focus of my concern, while being masked as a tool to build a competitive team environment, forcing a player to wear a lavender jersey as punishment is patently homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, etc. It takes a color that is feminine—and regularly associated with either women or the gay community—and assigns it to weakness, lack of commitment, or failure to work hard. It is then used to demean and humiliate, you know, because the color is capable of emasculating even the manliest of men.
A former professor of mine, Douglas Whaley, blogged on the subject as well. (It is actually how I found out about this.) Whaley writes: “It never occurs to Marotti, of course, that some of his players might actually be gay.”
That is the biggest problem I have with the lavender jersey. If there is a single gay player on that team (the roster lists 86 young men, so odds are, there is at least one) or even an assistant coach or other team personnel, that person is now pushed further in to the closet and feels even more unwelcome and ostracized by the team. Isn’t that rather contrary to the purpose of building a cohesive football team?
Professor Whaley submitted a letter to the Dispatch editors much to that effect:
“So Ohio State football’s new director of performance makes players who are loafers on the field, in the weight room, etc., wear a lavender shirt to embarrass them ["New strength coach a colorful motivator," Feb. 13, 2012]. Does he also use anti-gay slurs when referring to these slackers or is the shirt’s color enough to send the same homophobic message?”
Sheesh, such a contrast from Jim Tressel (who, by the way, is as outspokenly Christian as Urban Meyer) who, as you may have forgotten, was the first Division I NCAA football coach to be interviewed by a GLBT publication.
The second problem—beyond that first point that I’m sure many folks would roll their eyes at, suggesting it is just some over-sensitive, liberal agenda mumbo-jumbo—at best, the program violates numerous NCAA and Ohio state policies, and at worst, the program violates Ohio law and Title IX.
Where to start?
How about Ohio State Athletics’ “Our Values” statement? Most pertinent:
People. We will keep the well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff at the core of every decision.
I’m pretty sure the well-being of any gay athletes, coaches, or staffs have been ignored on this one.
Respect. We will celebrate a climate of mutual respect and diversity by recognizing each individual’s contribution to the team.
Violates this too.
What about the NCAA’s anti-hazing campaigns?
It turns out there is not an explicit hazing rule promulgated by the NCAA, but there are countless programs and initiatives the NCAA has initiated to prevent hazing. While most are directed at student-on-student hazing, it is much worse that hazing at issue here is coming directly from the institution—the entity usually charged with protecting the student-athletes from this type of conduct.
One initiative, NCAA’s hazing handbook, titled, “Building New Traditions: Hazing Prevention in College Athletics,” is illustrative.
Page 3. Comparing what is hazing versus team building.
Hazing: humiliates and degrades, tears down individuals, creates division, lifelong nightmares, shame and secrecy, and is a power trip.
This lavender jersey idea hits every single one of those…
Team building: promotes respect and dignity, supports and empowers, creates real teamwork, lifelong memories, pride and integrity, and is a shares positive experience.
… And none of these.
Page 4. What should athletic administrators be responsible for?
Well, crap, the athletic administrators are the ones doing the hazing here, so thinking they’d would act accordingly to prevent others from doing so is asking too much at Ohio State.
No need to keep going through the document; there is plenty there if you want to read further.
How about the “Hazing Fact Sheet” promulgated by the Ohio State Union?
While more directed at student organizations and fraternities, I presume the rules also apply to athletic teams (and if they don’t officially, they should). The Student Code of Conduct definition of hazing: “Doing, requiring or encouraging any act . . . that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm or humiliation.”
Okay, I’ve provided enough of the “soft” policies; how about some “hard” law now?
Civil liability for hazing is set forth in Ohio Revised Code § 2307.44: “Any person who is subject to hazing . . . may commence a civil action for injury or damages, including mental and physical pain and suffering, that result from the hazing.”
“If the hazing involves students in a . . . university . . . , an action may also be brought against any administrator, employee, or faculty member of the . . . university . . . who knew or reasonably should have known of the hazing and who did not make reasonable attempts to prevent it and against the . . . university . . . .”
That language looks really bad for Ohio State.
Now, the definition for hazing is written rather narrowly in § 2903.31, which could be a defense for Ohio State, in the event a player tried to sue about this.
A quick aside: I doubt any player—probably the only party that would have standing to actually sue about this—would ever bring a civil action about this. But, I think it’s generally a good idea to avoid violating laws whether or not you will actually be sued. (And you never know, maybe there is a gay player on the team or maybe one of those “loafers” doesn’t get their scholarship extended for next year and has a reason to sue.)
Anyway, the definition: “‘hazing’ means doing any act or coercing another, including the victim, to do any act of initiation into any student or other organization that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person.”
Arguably, the lavender jersey is not an “act of initiation.” If faced with a suit, I’m sure the school would say that the conditioning program is not an initiation to the team. The contrary argument is that especially during the early stages of team formation and conditioning, the norms and culture are being formed, and those are the team are being initiated to it. No knowing which argument would prevail, I would still go to the default perspective that a school—particularly one that hasn’t had the most pristine image as of late—should not test a gray area of the law.
Then there is Title IX.
Many only view Title IX as an equalizing device, providing more opportunities for women in sport. But the law is much more broad and can be used against gender stereotyping. The Women’s Sports Foundation provides a great synopsis of some cases that have addressed harassment based on gender expectations. The courts have ruled that “harassment based on gender non-conformity is a form of sex discrimination and, therefore, Title IX applies.”
Whether the conduct of the team (assigning the lavender jersey) or the conduct of the player (being the “loafer” leading to receiving the jersey) would trigger Title IX protection, again is debatable, but again, it seems like it would be risky for a school to continue conduct in such a gray area.
In sum, the lavender jersey motivation bothers me mostly for contributing to the homophobic culture of sports. But knowing that few athletic institutions will change their conduct because of that, hopefully all the violations of NCAA program, Ohio State University policies, and Ohio and federal laws may do the trick.
I’ve been in the works of planning a “homophobia in sports” type of event to be hosted at the Ohio State law school in mid-April. This issue will definitely have to be discussed, and I’ll be calling in the big shots to do the talking (and hopefully will be able to line up some meetings with athletic administrators as well).
A few hat-tips to send out: Professor Whaley for his original blog post, Andy Gammill for directing my attention to it, and Paul Alderete for creating the Ohio lavender jersey used as a thumbnail for this post (I have no idea what the actual lavender jersey looks like).
As you may have noticed—whether you check this blog regularly, once a month, or if this is your first time—there has been a dearth of updates. It has made no difference whether I’ve been busy (during finals) or not (during break between semesters). Merely, I have not had the motivation to write.
The reason: I haven’t felt compelled by anything.
Sure, of course, there have been minor developments within the scope of what I normally write about. And I do my best to pass those on via Twitter or Facebook. “Random sports person vocalizes his support of the gay community!” or “Random sports person does something homophobic!” or “Random athlete playing random sport at a random level of competition just came out!”
Not to minimize the importance of those events—because each incremental step is newsworthy—but I have nothing to add to those stories that I haven’t said already. In fact, I even have categories for each of those topics: Allies in Sport, Athletes Coming Out, and Homophobia in Sport. While the individual details may vary from story to story, generally, my commentary will be the same. And it gets repetitive. I’ve always wanted to be offer more than, “Here is Story X, plus repetitive, obvious commentary.”
Anyway, enough of the reasons why I haven’t written; clearly, I’m writing, so I must have a good reason!
And that reason: I could not believe the comments made by my classmates when discussing whether women could coach men.
First, some context.
The course is “Sports Law” and the previous week we had discussed the scope of authority for the commissioners of leagues to act for “what is in the best interest of the sport.” (Aside: I wish every law school course was like this!) This week, in wrapping up that subject and with those commissioner powers and responsibilities in mind, we were asked to think about and to discuss the following questions under the heading of “Sports and Social Ethics”:
- Do you ban the athlete who is HIV or AIDS positive?
- Does the American with Disabilities Act come into play?
- Is there discrimination in sports not only against HIV positive people but also gay and lesbian athletes, minorities, or women in general?
- What do you think of the Rooney Rule? And should there be percentages of a certain minority of players and coaches and should it tie to the overall population?
- Should Affirmative Action be applied in sports?
- Should athletes have a right of free speech even if they say something distasteful, or can their team govern what they say based on the potential embarrassment?
- Should athletes be allowed to make protests or demonstrations while they are part of a team? This includes considerations of free speech, freedom of religion and assembly in a public building. [And now, Social Media.]
Whew. What a list.
Honestly, the class could have (and I would have enjoyed) spending an hour-plus on any one of those questions. But with limited time, we were only able to discuss a few, and in far more brevity than the subjects could warrant.
The discussion began with the first question listed, “Do you ban the athlete who is HIV or AIDS positive?” The professor added some context: other players in the league (even up to all but the single athlete in question) are refusing to play. If you’re commissioner, do you ban the athlete? Or, if you’re a plaintiff’s attorney, do you take the case?
Of course, I had something to say. I mentioned that the risks of transmitting HIV or AIDS in that fashion are significantly low, and that there are far more risky elements of any sport that are not acted upon; therefore, to act on this would be discriminatory. Others fairly retorted that in the interest of the entire game, rather than the interest of a single player, if 99% of the league refused to play with that athlete, prohibiting the HIV/AIDS athlete may be your only course of action.
While I could go on and on about that subject, what I consider to be the absurd comments sparking my interest to write came next. So, yes, after over 700 words of ramble, I’m finally getting to the substance of what I wanted to write about. (Sorry for stringing you along this far.)
We moved on to discussing the Rooney-Rule of the NFL. If you’re not familiar with it, basically, any NFL team that is hiring a new head coach must have three “finalists” and one of those three finalists must be a “minority candidate.” We discussed the merits of it, whether it has been successful or not, whether it is still needed, etc.
And then the professor posed the question: Should a rule like the Rooney-Rule be imposed for women coaches in NCAA men’s sports, because, for example, there are no women head or assistant coaches in men’s Division I basketball ? (The professor was not, nor am I, familiar with any women coaches at that level).
The response simultaneously astounded and bothered me.
And it came from both men and women.
Ignoring the merits of a rule like the Rooney-Rule and whether there would even be women interested in coaching men as general matters (which both were discussed), those that spoke suggested that a woman would not even have the capacity to do so.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
The arguments seemed to suggest that a woman would be lacking in what I’ve grouped together as two ways: (1) competence and (2) leadership.
All/most/many coaches of men’s basketball played at that level at some point and even if a woman played at some point, the game is different (size of the ball, speed, size, physicality, etc.); so therefore, a woman would not even be able to coach men satisfactorily.
I’m sorry. What?!?
Okay, sure, most of the coaches at that level did play at that level. And yes, it certainly could be beneficial, both from understanding the game and in getting a little credibility from the male players on the team. But a requirement?! Not even close.
Plenty can be learned through observation. Fundamentals can be learned and taught by anyone. (In fact, the woman’s game has been known for having better fundamentals.) Xs and Os can be drawn up by anyone. Boxing out, free throws, pick and rolls, court spacing: None of it is so profound that it cannot be learned, even without having played at the exact same level of competition.
Oddly enough, I’ve written about this before, after a woman was selected to coach a men’s football team in D.C. in 2010 (of which Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers tweeted his criticisms of the move).
At that time, ESPN columnist Jemele Hill tweeted, “If ur against women coaching fb, fine. but dont make it an athletic argument. plenty of bad/mediocre male athletes are coaches.”
Indeed, there are plenty of coaches who were horrible at their sport, or never played at all. In 2007, ESPN columnist Andy Katz wrote the piece, “Coaches prove you didn’t have to play to win,” specifically highlighting successful men’s college basketball coaches who never played at that level.
And there are examples in every sport and at every level.
Furthermore, as I mentioned in the class discussion, Nancy Lieberman coaches men of the Texas Legends in the NBA’s development league, a level of play (speed, skill, etc.) above college. She played at the highest level of women’s basketball, both professionally and in the Olympics. She also coached in the WNBA. She has proven to be able to coach women and men competently. Where one has done it, there are more.
Male collegiate athletes would not respect (listen to, accept direction from, etc.) a woman coach, and therefore, the woman coach could not lead the team.
Again, what?! This is the same argument that has discriminatorily prevented women from advancing in the corporate world. This is the same argument that was made in opposing African-American coaching white players. It is pathetic.
Really, I think it comes down to distinguishing between whether the male athletes would not respect a woman coach or could not.
Clearly, they could. They possess the capacity to do so. Throughout their lives, undoubtedly, they’ve had the opportunity to be in a position where a woman was in charge: either their mother or another family figure, a school teacher, a police officer, or work supervisor. The capacity is there. They know how to do it. They know how to respect someone with authority over them. Thus, they could respect a woman coach.
Then, the question is, would they?
I’m sorry, but if your answer is still, “no, the woman coach would not be respected,” then I have to say that the problem is the male athletes and not the woman coach.
(3) Would there be enough interest to warrant a Rooney-Rule?
I know I said I’d ignore this issue, but since students in the class brought up how there probably is not enough women interested in coaching men’s basketball to warrant a Rooney-Rule, I have to at least say something.
The sentiment is probably true, but it only has merit if the rule operated in the exact same fashion as the Rooney-Rule, requiring that a woman be interviewed for all vacant positions.
But, that view fails to consider that the rule could be modified to balance the level of interest in coaching with the interest of breaking down this gender barrier.
Here’s my quick solution:
Any woman interested in coaching a men’s sport submits their name for consideration to the NCAA, specifying what she thinks she is qualified to coach and where should would like to coach (examples: specific geographic regions, in a specific conference, specifically-named teams, teams based on success, etc.). The NCAA can then pre-screen the applicant to assure that at the bare-minimum, she would be worth consideration for the positions she has expressed interest. Then, if a team is looking to hire, they must consult the list, and if a woman candidate matches the school, she must be interviewed.
The system would prevent a team from being handcuffed by the obligation when no candidates are interested while simultaneously provide an avenue for qualified woman to enter into the league.
Sure, there may not be many women interested, but I would much rather that interest be the only roadblock than antiquated views about competence and leadership.